Monday, June 09, 2008

San Jose Triathlon 2hrs 28 Mins

I am very pleased with this time, I was told I could expect to go up to fifteen minutes shorter at San Jose than at Wildflower, so cutting twenty minutes from my Wildflower time was very satisfying indeed. There are reasons - San Jose is much flatter, there is only one steep climb on the bike, and the run is pretty flat. Also, the swim is 250 metres shorter than a normal Olympic distance swim, not that that’s a whole lot, but it knocks a few minutes of the swim.
That said, the swim was a pain in the ass, I went off a little too fast, and had to slow down, I also veered off course a few times on the circular course, and my goggles let in some water on the right side which is very annoying and makes it hard to sight the course buoys. I was glad to get out of the water, but my swimming is strong and I should be getting better times. 22 minutes is fine, but in the pool I can knock at least 3 minutes off that. I need to be more aggressive and less intimidated. I was thrilled with my bike ride; I did the 40k in 1:10, and managed to keep up with the time trial bikes which are much more aero-dynamic than a normal road bike. On the one hill I zipped by the TT bikes, but I was head to head with the same group of riders on the flats (most of the course). The run however, was a bitch. I made a big mistake the day before by going for a ride with some friends and overdoing it. I went 10 miles out not realising I had a lot of climbing on the way back. That was a dumb move. After pushing hard on the ride, my legs felt like concrete on the run. I did the 10K in 50 minutes but I was hoping to get closer to 46 minutes. It’s a lesson learned. Taper properly. Lack of sleep was also a factor, as I also had to get up at 4:30AM to drive 60 miles to be on time for the 7:20AM start time. For a variety of reasons I hadn't gotten a solid nights sleep all week none of which helped. Despite all that at the end of the day coming in under 2:30 was thrilling. I was 34th in my age group and 180th overall. It was a very cool event, 1500 people and very well organised. There is such a positive vibe at these events that it carries through for a few days afterwards.

In an aside, one of my friends, who lives in the US was back in Ireland and did the Wicklow 200K bike ride, and said that while the ride was spectacular, it was the worst organised event he has ever done. No rest station until 100K, and then it didn’t have any energy drinks or gels, and at the beginning only one machine to check in over a 1000 people. Any Irish readers out there do the ride? What was your experience?

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wildflower Triathlon

2hrs 48mins 17 seconds

Had a great race. It went as smooth as could be. The swim as expected was my strongest, and I got out of the water among the top of my age group. I had a ball on the cycling, the infamous Lynch hill didn't seem too bad. All the training definitely paid off there, I cruised up the hills. The run was as brutal as I had been led to expect, but I got the 10k done in 50 minutes. I am really happy with the time, 12 minutes inside my aim of 3hrs. Everyone I talked to told me it was a good result, for a first triathlon, given the difficulty of the course. I am thrilled skinny, (or at least swimmed, biked and ran skinny). More later when I recover. Thanks to all for your best wishes. I will be doing this again!

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Taper, (And Now The End Is Near)

So, less than a week to go. I am tapering, although my body wants to go run, cycle, jump, anything but relax. I have a few short, intense work outs to keep the body primed, for example I will do a much shorter swim today, maybe 1500 metres, but all 100 metre sets at high intensity. Tomorrow I have my bike class, a similar swim on Thursday, Friday off, and maybe a short intense bike ride on Saturday. I am equal measures excited and apprehensive. I am prepared, and I got a lactate test last week, and my gains are substantial. My lactate threshold, (LT), has gone up quite a bit, and my top end power output has rocketed. My blood lactate increases a little too fast for my liking from the point LT is reached to the point at which it accumulates in my system, the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA), but this is mostly because I started my sessions a few weeks late. If I had started two weeks earlier I would have been able to spend more time training in my upper zones lengthening the time before OBLA. It's nothing to worry about though. If I keep this up after the triathlon, that will change. Mostly I am worried about pushing too hard. The last mountain bike race I rode, I killed myself to get up front, but half way through I burned out and finished badly. I’ve never done a triathlon so I’m not sure how to gauge. The swim although my least favorite discipline is easily my fastest compared to most people in my age group, but I am going to take it easy. The bike I will push a bit, but mostly I want to get to the run with something in the tank. Every time I talk to someone about Wildflower, the word “brutal” is used to describe the hilly run which is largely on trails. I have been averaging 7.45 minute miles on my runs, but I expect that I will be well over 8, and maybe even 9 minutes given the preceding disciplines and the course. I will be happy to come in under three hours, but I know if I race well I could do a lot better, however lack of experience will factor against me, and if the weather doesn’t cooperate things could go south rapidly. I don’t work well in intense heat, and it has gotten over 100F in previous years, although it averages in the 80’s. Hopefully the wind won’t be a factor, but it has been in the past, and wind is generally expected to play a role in the race.

So there it is nothing to do but avoid injury. We are heading down to the race site, having rented an RV, we will camp for two nights. Our two eldest kids are coming, as are my trainer friend, his wife and their 2 eldest. Several of the folks from my bike class are competing also, and a few friends are thinking of coming down to cheer along. It should be fun, hopefully…

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Triathlon Training (and training and training and training...)

I had meant to blog this triathlon training thing on a regular basis, however, as usual when taking on something new, I underestimated how time consuming and difficult this training would be. My guitars are gathering dust, so intensive have been the last few weeks. The kids do get dusted off occasionally, but even they are temporarily orphaned on this altar of athletic achievement. So here I am, half way into my nine week training program and nary a blog post published, at least none concerning progress of a sporting variety. So, this is how it has gone:

When I decided I was going to do this, there were two major obstacles: my torn meniscus (more later), and time. A wise man once told me that while it's possible to have lots time, and lots of money, having both simultaneously is a rare thing indeed.Although I have very little time, I am gainfully employed, so it seemed throwing som some money at it might enable me to maximise my time. With that in mind, I joined the Endurance Performance Centers, and I also arranged for a friend, experienced in such things, to draw me up a nine week training plan, scientifically designed to deposit me at the start of the Wildflower triathlon, in peak form. The fact that my friend had previously worked for Endurance was not a coincidence. They are an outfit specifically geared towards getting bikers in peak shape. To do this, I first had a fitness assessment. This meant wearing a gas exchange mask, and a heart rate monitor while riding a bike hooked up to a computer. I first rode until the test showed that although working hard, I had reached the limit of my bodies ability to absorb oxygen, i.e. my VO2 max. For the next test, I rode constantly while the watts I needed to put out increased every two minutes, until I could go no further. At 310 watts I topped out, my legs screaming at me to stop. Previous to all this, I stood on a super dooper high tech weighing scale that weighed me, calculated my body fat, and the individual muscle density of my legs and arms, and my basal metabolic rate. All this was used to calculate my VT1 and VT2. These are my training thresholds and each one is a combination of heart rate, wattage and VO2. Ideally you train within them, pushing above VT2 for short periods to increase your lactate thresholds. Then I got a review of this with an expert, explaining what it meant and how I could apply it, and how I should fuel as I trained. I came out as fit and healthy, although any dreams of a future stint in the Tour de France peloton were well and truly scuppered. With a V02 max of 47, I was in the high end of my age and of an average person, but well below that of a professional. For example Lance Armstrong's VO2 max is in the 80s. It seems I am in no way a superman, not that I needed a test to tell me that. The most important thing they measure is your efficiency, how well you use the energy you produce. Mostly this is all about pedaling technique. My score wasn’t great. However this is not a bad thing. You may be able to up your V02 max, but often its limit is genetically defined. Your power output may also increase but for some people it doesn’t improve much. Efficiency however, can always be improved. This explains why there are professional athletes with lower VO2 maxes who are incredibly efficient.

After all this, I started on a program of twice weekly 90 minute eCycling classes at Endurance. This is basically a class of bikers with their bikes mounted on a CompuTrainer (device for generating wattage load). Each person has four wattage zones. Z1 is easy, Z2 a little harder, Z3 is hard, and Z4 is only sustainable for a minute or so. The instructor brings the class through sets of intervals designed to help build endurance and simulate real world cycling, hills, descents, time trials, pace lines, and sprinting. All of this is done with a constant focus on efficient technique. “Keep it pretty!” our trainer shouts as we try to hold 25 miles an hour in Z4 for a minute. “Dance with a swan, don’t wrestle with a pig!” I finished many classes smelling of bacon. The classes do an eight week rotation, getting progressively harder, after which you get tested again. You should show substantial gains in every area. Although I haven’t retested yet, I am already working way above my initial numbers. Concurrent to this, my friend developed a training program that included twice weekly swims, starting at 2500 metres and working up to 3500 metres, and runs that incorporate some hill sprints to build strength. On the weekends I get to ride outside, usually a long ride three or four hours, but never too hard.

Over all I feel great, a little tired most evenings, and early to bed is the norm. However I’ve lost almost 10lbs, my max wattage on the bike has jumped dramatically, and my efficiency is hugely improved. When I ride with my friends that train all year round and race occasionally, I can now keep up. So, at the half way mark it’s all working as planned. My greatest worry was that my knee wouldn't hold up, but to my delight as my legs have gotten stronger my torn meniscus seems to have healed, and bar an occasional twinge, seems to be fine.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Tri Training

I am fried today. This triathlon lark has burned me out. I cycled 40k on Friday and for shits and giggles ran 3 miles afterwards. Just to see how it feels like. It felt downright weird; my legs were jelly, although aerobically I was fine, if a little tired. I then rode 52k on Sunday, and today I couldn’t even crawl across the room, even with a gun pointed at my head. I my have overdone it slightly. A wine soaked dinner at a friend’s house until 1:30am on Saturday night didn't help. If I am serious about this (and I am), I may have to trim back my social life a tad. The ride was worth it though; yesterday was gorgeous, 70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and no wind. Perfect cycling weather. My hangover gave up the ghost after the first hill climb.

The good thing is that my indoor wattage training on the stationary bike is paying off, I am feeling much stronger, and was easily able to keep up with the folks I was riding with, all of whom race and ride more often than I do. A few weeks back I would fall behind on the climbs, last weekend I felt strong and instead of being completely shagged when I got to the top, I recovered almost instantly, a sure sign of increasing fitness. Still, I can barely lift my head off my desk today. Part of the problem is I didn’t refuel properly, 2 slices of pizza does not a triathlete's diet make! I have a carb drink for the ride, but I really should get a carb / protein drink for immediately afterwards. I have been told that I will feel much better faster if I do this.

This week, I going to work on a training schedule with a friend, who up to recently ran a company that trained endurance athletes, and I will hit the pool for my first swim session. Swimming is my strong suit, I swam competitively for years, and most people doing a first triathlon haven't ever swam in competition before, so I expect I should be able to do the 1500 meters without too much training.

Until then, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Monday, January 14, 2008

It's Not Like I Have A Lot Of Free Time But....

For some time now I have wanted to do a triathlon. Having a job, three kids, and a part time gig as a completely unknown musician has largely prevented that particular piece of self realisation. However, my fortieth year on this planet is looming, in fact it passed looming some time back. "Bearing down on me rapidly" might be a more apt description. 40 is now tanked up on speed, driving a fast car, and has just popped over the horizon, accelerator depressed to the max, while laughing maniacally.Therefore, I just signed up for the Wildflower Triathlon in Monterey in early May. A mere three weeks before my inevitable meeting with the onset of middle age. I can't afford a red Porsche, so my midlife crisis will be something I should have tried 10 years ago.

Not that anyone out there should really give a toss, but I figure if I put it up here publicly, I may be more likely to actually train and compete in the event. I should be fine for the swim (I swam competitively for years and I did the Alcatraz swim a few years back), so I know I can go the distance easily. Biking's not a problem as I've done, and do, lots of that. However, here's the rub: I'm not so sure about the run. I tore my meniscus last spring, and the good doctor thought it worthwhile, based on the position of the tear, to avoid surgery and see how/if it mended itself. So far, it seems to be progressing nicely. It still twinges, but I can walk up a stairs or chase my kids without stabbing pain, or my knee popping. However, I won't really won't know how it holds up until I begin running. My plan is to forestall running for as long as possible, and get myself in shape biking to and from work, and swimming at lunch time (there's a pool close to work).

For anyone interested, I am doing the Olympic distance, 0.9 mile open water swim, 40k bike ride, and 10k run.

Advice anyone?

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